Day after day, I converse with workers and hear about issues that affect their health and safety, which include injuries and accidents in the workplace. There have been several workers, especially immigrants, who have told me their personal stories. Today though, I am only going to focus on one of the issues that plague them.
The well-being of many immigrant workers is largely affected because they are expected to do the most dangerous jobs and are the most disadvantaged when claiming their rights. In most cases of course, fear is present. The fear of reprisals from employers or even fear of the government. There are several cases I have heard about in which workers are fired after a few days of being injured even though they have worked for the company for several years. Most of the accidents in the workplace are not being reported to OSHA and other government agencies. With injuries going unreported, companies proudly show zero accidents for a month in which they probably had several.
I have heard on several occasions about safety team workers or management that pressure workers not to report any information about workplace injuries.
This was the case with Ramon, who after being involved in an accident in July 2010, was told not to report the accident by his supervisor because the incident would have raised the monthly premium of the company’s insurance.
In another instance, a worker named Jose slipped on the floor due to an accumulation of grease and broke his arm. The management verbally harassed Jose until he signed a letter to indicate that he was quitting his job. They told him if he did not sign the letter he would be fired and would be unable to find another job.
Juan, another worker, also slipped due to the grease and was badly injured. When Juan was in a lot of pain, the management forced him to sign a document in English (a language he does not understand) that indicated he would accept that the injury was his fault. The management threatened that if he did not sign this document they would not be able to pay him for his medical treatment. He was later fired.
In another case, Pedro was injured due to repetitive motion required by his job and suffered from severe pain. He was offered by the company a low sum of money if he still continued to work for the plant or they would double the payment but he would have to quit.
On several occasions I have noticed that after the workers have gained courage to file for workers compensation and gained legal help, they face another problem – their financial situation. Because workers are desperate they agree to settlements with companies that are not even close to being fair. After all that they must face another very difficult obstacle. Finding a new job.